Reduction in total under-five mortality in western Nepal through community-based antimicrobial treatment of pneumonia

Lancet. 1991 Oct 19;338(8773):993-7. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)91847-n.


Pneumonia is a leading cause of death among children world wide but those at highest risk in developing countries have limited access to clinical services; effective and low-cost alternatives are a global public health priority. We have done a controlled intervention trial among 13,404 children under five in Jumla, Nepal, which relied exclusively on indigenous community health workers to detect and treat pneumonia according to the World Health Organisation decision strategy, with a five-day home-treatment course of oral co-trimoxazole. No other health services were provided, and referral of children to hospital was not practicable. During the three-year study, 2101 deaths were recorded. The programme led to a 28% reduction in the risk of death from all causes by the third year of services (relative risk 0.72, 95% confidence interval 0.63-0.82), with a significant trend (p less than 0.02) of lower mortality with greater duration of the programme. The greatest benefit was among infants. In addition to reduction in deaths due to pneumonia, there was a significant reduction in deaths due to diarrhoea and measles, indicating that reduction in pneumonia morbidity had considerable carry-over effect. Our findings show that indigenous community workers can effectively detect and treat pneumonia, and reduce overall child mortality, even without other primary care activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Age Factors
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chloramphenicol / administration & dosage
  • Chloramphenicol / therapeutic use
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nepal / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / mortality
  • Pneumonia / prevention & control*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Rural Health
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / administration & dosage
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / therapeutic use*


  • Chloramphenicol
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination